Sunday, June 17, 2012

Grandma's Half Marathon

So yesterday, I ran Grandma's Half Marathon. It was a special run because the USA Track & Field finals were held 20 minutes before our gun time. It was also my first time traveling for a race, which was quite a nerve-wracking experience! I forgot both my phone charger and one of my two running socks. But before I say anything else, It was BEAUTIFUL! Minnesota is just covered with trees and rolling hills and watching the sun rise over Lake Superior is an amazing experience. I would recommend this race to anyone who enjoys a breath-taking course near fishermen's boats and pine trees in a charming area with extremely kind people. And the taxi drivers are the greatest. I haven't ridden in many taxis, but one taught me all about the gems found around Duluth, which he shines himself and sells. And another was an avid follower of Miss Patti Labelle who moved back to Duluth once retired after having lived in cities including San Francisco and LA for his working life. Wonderful people!

With only a carry on bag stacked with race clothes and books to study, I traveled all day Friday. Starting from my summer apartment in Chicago at 8am and arriving at the convention center in Duluth at 5pm. Not knowing anyone, I went to eat at an irish pub, hoping for some good beef stew, my favorite. However, there was no stew so I went with a salad. There I discovered I had left behind my charger, rolled up on my table. The staff at the Dublin restaurant were FABULOUS wrangling one up. So friendly and really living up to Minnesota expectations.

The day of the race I got up at 4:30 from my dorm room at University of Minnesota, Duluth and ran downstairs for a complimentary banana, lots of peanut butter, coffee, and toast with an apple and powerade (bought the night before) for the road. I waited in line and hopped on the bus with a new friend, Elisha Engelen (aiming for sub-1:50 and got 1:44!!!), who was also running alone though she had many friends and her husband along the course.

Upon arriving at the race, I met up with a running partner from dc who I had never met or run with before, Elizabeth Young, who runs at about my pace. It was GREAT getting to share the experience with her! We did a short warm up and made our way to the front. It was difficult as we wove between many people frustrated who said things like "we are all running the same race" which is true, but we can't win the race unless we start at the front. However, as we neared the front it was not nearly so packed and we were able to get up to run some striders and make another pit stop before beginning.

The race itself was incredibly difficult for me.  I was incredibly sick the week before the race. I think with new allergies due to Chicago for the summer. I woke up Friday morning with a nose bleed for the first time since early childhood (first time I can remember) I think due to the fact it wouldn't stop running for the previous week. I thought I wouldn't run the race....  But there I was and I was going to try my hardest!

I was told the whole race was downhill. Well, coming from flat Norfolk and Chicago, let me say there is a significant amount of uphill the first 10k. One needs to take this into account when planning how to best run the race, which I did not. I ran my pr for the first 5k (5:57/mi, 18:22), meaning I was on track to run my goal speed of ~6min/mi. However, my breathing started getting really bad and my back and neck started cramping. I felt horrible. At the 10k mark I almost dropped out. The only thing that kept me going was remembering one time back in montana. I fell at the top of a mountain range during a race and broke my tailbone. I had to finish the race because there was no other way off the mountain (maybe a helicopter rescue). So I got down by a very slow-pace jog that minimized the bouncing but was faster than walking. So thinking of that I kept going but stopped 'racing'. I didn't look at my garmin and I didn't care who passed me. My goal was to just make it to the finish despite the fact I could barely breathe. I do not encourage other people with asthma or breathing difficulties to do this.

In the end, I got good miles on my legs and built strength. I finished a solid fourth with a 6:16 pace in 1:22. I hope to never run another race that feels so terrible and probably will sit out next time I feel so sick. But the times it is hardest characterizes how much you can do when it feels easy. Well, off to start cross training! I will post soon on Chicago & its running scene & what I am learning working in the top rehabilitation facility in the nation (Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago)... Which is A LOT to make me a MUCH better doctor in the future! YAY! And yes, I spent the morning looking up what my next races will be...


  1. I am so sorry to hear you had a tough time Courtney! To pull off a 1:22 in those conditions is amazing!! Can't wait to hear about Chicago and to run together again when you get back.

  2. What a fabulous time you accomplished with all the challenges you noted on your blog! I had no doubt after meeting you, that I would hear about your run later. I was out last night with friends and your name appeared on the local news station, announcing both your time and placing. I wish you the best during your cross training! Good Luck on those presentations Monday and Wednesday too!